BELMONT ABBEY COLLEGE LIBRARY
BEN BX4705.H3 B19x 1992
Baumstein, P/A conflict of mitres : the
3 8105 00138338 2
w $&1 . .. . .
W R D § SPIRIT
--a monastic review-
ASPECTS OF MONASTICISM IN AMERICA
S t . Bede ' s Publ icat ions
Petersham, Massachusetts 01565
PREFACE , //<:
Word and Spirit is a monastic review published once a year. Ordi-
narily each issue focuses on a single theological or spiritual
theme, or commemorates some significant event in the history of
Celebrating the quinquecentennial of the discovery of America
provides us with the opportunity to stand back and examine the
development of monasticism in the United States. The story is
long and varied, full of heroic men and women who overcame
insurmountable odds to bring the fruits of contemplative monas-
tic life to these shores. In the process, they may have lost some-
thing of their old-world culture and lifestyle and many of them
were forced into a more active apostolate. But in bringing monas-
tic life to this country, they acquired invaluable insight into the
universal call to ministry and gained much in the exchange from
the people with whom they came to live, pray, and work. These
men and women deserve to be remembered by us, their stories
told and retold as an inspiration for future generations of monks
A volume of this size can only scratch the surface of the story of
monasticism in the United States, to which we have limited
ourselves in this issue. For this reason we did not extend the
theme to include Central and South America as well. However,
the papers presented here provide an excellent overview of
various aspects of the development of the monastic orders in our
land and give hope for a resurgence in the future.
Ill I. . .- >:!i
A CONFUCT OF MITRES:
The Diverse Polities and Cathedral Abbey
of Bishop Leo Haid 1
Paschal Baumstein, OSB
Belmont, North Carolina)
Catholic history in North Carolina is not among the Church's
more distinguished narratives. Progress fell dormant under the
press of rugged terrain, hostile citizenry, discriminatory laws,
broad scattering of the faithful, and an absence of priests. When
the Church finally focused on the state, the effort seemed reluc-
tant and half-hearted, as North Carolina's territory was continu-
ally linked with that of more significant polities— jurisdictions
that successfully competed for the ordinaries' time and interest.
The state won from the Church neither adequate provisions for
the faithful nor an aggressive effort toward evangelization.
Even after a vicariate apostolic was finally created for North
Carolina in 1868, no ordinary was allowed to restrict his interest to
her territory, and none ever completed his tenure in residence
there during the fifty-six years of the vicariate's existence. 2 North
Carolina seemed unable to support or even prove hospitable to a
In 1887, for the fifth time in the vicariate's two decades of
existence, a new ordinary was required. North Carolina, with an
expansive territory of nearly 53,000 square miles, weak economy,
no resident bishop, only fourteen priests (a third of whom were in
a monastery), and — in a population of 1,300,000 — only about 2600
Catholics, 3 randomly situated, needed an extraordinary man to
invigorate and guide Catholic growth.
Yet in lending the state this overdue attention, Rome imposed a
heavy burden and the seeds of a conflict that would survive into
the final days of the next century. On 7 December 1887, the Holy
See announced the choice of Dom Leo Michael Haid (1849-1924)
for this unpromising position. Haid was a thirty-eight year old
Benedictine monk, the first abbot of the small monastery at Bel-
mont 4 in western North Carolina, and president of the monks'
A Conflict of Mitres I 77
college. 5 A Pennsylvania native, the bishop-elect had been bap-
tized at the Archabbey of St. Vincent in Pennsylvania, and raised
in that Benedictine monastery's shadow. Since the age of twelve
he had lived with the monks. He was educated, professed and
ordained at the Pennsylvania abbey; then he taught in her
schools until his election as the Carolina abbot, when he was
The Carolina monastery — named "Maryhelp," but known
popularly as Belmont Abbey — was the first Benedictine abbey in
the American South. Its first monk, accompanied by two
students, had assumed residence there on 21 April 1876. Four
brothers were assigned to Belmont soon afterwards to begin a
farm. A small school opened immediately, but with no local
Catholic populace to lend its sons, either as vocations or students,
the institute remained unstable and mediocre. The religious grew
dissatisfied: only one of the monks stationed there in the first
eight years failed to beg a transfer. Spirits were low, prospects
were poor, and the extreme distance from the Pennsylvania
motherhouse disabled efforts to monitor and remedy the situation.
Eventually, the foundation was severed from the motherhouse
by a grant of canonical independence. Unfortunately, the abbatial
rank that this bestowed came with more speed than prudence.
Only two monks who had ever seen Belmont were willing to join
the new abbey; so members for the Chapter of the independent
monastery had to be recruited from elsewhere, among Benedic-
tines who did not know Belmont. The first monk elected abbot
declined the office, necessitating a Papal indult for a second
election. By the time Haid was sent to North Carolina, more than
seven months after the monastery's erection as an abbey, the
monks were resigned to the fact that the new abbot's inexpe-
rience and unfamiliarity with either the foundation or the South
might be all that secured him. It was widely conceded that the
second-choice abbot entered upon his venue with few prospects
The secular clergy in Carolina found the whole Benedictine
presence disheartening. Because of the sparsity of Catholics in
the state, and the absence of any Catholic center, the priests of
Carolina were missionaries, roving clerics who spent more time in
traveling than in direct ministry. While they were anxious to
78 I Word & Spirit
augment their numbers with religious priests, vigorous apostolic
laborers were wanted, not monks in a monastery. Although the
school was welcomed, the monks seemed an inadequate answer
to the prayers of Catholic Carolinians.
— The Benedictines
From their first days in North Carolina, the Benedictines
applied themselves to the religious needs of area Catholics.
Nevertheless, because of monastic, school, and farm duties, it was
impossible for them to give priority to pastoral work. Service in
the missions had to be restricted almost entirely to Sundays.
Despite this abbreviated schedule though, the monks sought to
provide the Sacraments over a broad area, eventually about four-
teen counties. The abbey also became the Catholic center of
North Carolina. This was not just a result of the presence of
priests, the school, the liturgical provisions, or similar services at
Belmont; it was a simple matter of numbers: the monks and
students formed the greatest concentration of Roman Catholics
in the whole state — even when their permanent numbers went
little beyond one dozen.
Leo Haid, no less than his monks, went out on the Sunday
missions. There he found himself a focus of interest, respect, and
appreciation. The laity gave him a warm response. Haid's strong
monastic sensibilities made him a priest unlike any the Catholics
or Protestants of the state had ever encountered before. Addi-
tionally, the press documented him as a powerful speaker, in
command of both knowledge and heart. The faithful were pleased
by his resources of charm and piety. They regarded him as a
scholar, too, although that only meant he was a monk of the
schools rather than of the missions, parishes, or farms. Leo Haid
was a published playwright, too, and he proved a popular confes-
sor and spiritual director. Yet, as important as these qualities
were, the bishop's infectious enthusiasm, a quality seldom asso-
ciated with North State Catholicism, 7 may have proven his most
In the vicariate, however, the clergy were unwilling to indulge
their bishop's impediment of monasticism. This monk and school
teacher seemed unequal to the missionary episcopate in a rough,
A Conflict of Mitres I 79
hostile, Southern environment. He had never labored on the
circuit of isolated churches that peppered the vicariate; he had
never even worked in a parish. Leo Haid did not seem the man
the North State's Catholics so desperately needed. Perhaps, it
was thought, his most significant value would be the indenture
his new position imposed on the monks: The abbot's appoint-
ment as North Carolina's bishop pressured the Benedictines to
embrace the work of the missions; the monks also acquired the
state's episcopal expenses as their own, a factor that, for the first
time ever, secured for the North State a resident bishop who
would be financially able to live in his Carolina territory.
There was, however, another side to this man's episcopal
worthiness: The Benedictines knew that Leo Haid was not an
ideal candidate for the See of North Carolina. 8 The root of the
problem lay less in the candidate's lack of pastoral experience
than in his personality. Haid was a man of the cloister, not only by
experience but by predilection.
This had never been disguised. From the moment the first
rumor of his appointment surfaced, Haid let it be known that he
would never abandon his monastery, not for the vicariate or any
other episcopal See. 9 Strangely, Rome did not take this bold
assertion as evidence of a lack of episcopal vocation. Instead, the
Holy See embraced his reluctance — on Gibbons' recommendation
—saying Haid would not be asked to abandon his abbey upon
becoming vicar: he would reign concurrently as abbot and
bishop. Although this unusual arrangement was tried elsewhere
in the United States, it was allowed to continue only at Belmont.
The problem with such combined governance was the necessity
it imposed on the abbot-bishop to divide his interests, build up
two jurisdictions, provide for the growth and preservation of two
fledgling bodies. It also tended to blur the distinctions between
the institutions, luring monks into the missions, for example, and
suggesting to the seculars that the cathedraticum need not repre-
sent an adequate provision.
Yet of all the problems that attended the joint reign, the most
significant was that the abbey lost the services of a full-time
spiritual father, while North Carolina received but a part-time
bishop — once again — to do a full-time job. Neither the monks at
the abbey nor the priests of the vicariate were to be satisfied.
80 I Word & Spirit
Haid as Bishop
From the beginning of his divided jurisdiction, Leo Haid would
permit no doubt regarding his priorities. As he later explained the
situation, he was "a monk before I was either priest or bishop." 10
His preferences, it seems, ran in chronological order. Surely the
faithful noticed this when, for example, the theme selected for his
first episcopal tour was the honor and glory of monastic life, 11 an
unusual missionary theme, no matter how heartfelt. At the mon-
astery, he was reluctant to abandon any duties; 12 so in 1888, just as
he had in 1887, though now as ordinary, Leo Haid taught a full
schedule in the monastic schools. 13 He continued his farming, too,
and gave instruction in the novitiate. The new bishop fulfilled his
episcopal duties, of course, but he never extricated his heart from
the precincts of his monastery, nor — even more importantly — did
he think he should.
The new bishop was amazed by the affection rendered him by
the laity. 14 For the faithful, Leo Haid's monasticism seemed at first
to be an asset, an endearing factor in his character, rather than a
hindrance to his parochial service. Haid initiated his episcopate
by traveling broadly through the state, speaking and ministering.
At the monks' college at Belmont a seminary was opened. There
both seculars and religious were trained and educated. Haid's
seminarians there enjoyed the peculiar privilege of having their
bishop and his vicar general as their principal instructors. But the
abbot-bishop could not always serve in the classroom or even in
the diocese. Necessity imposed on his schedule a generous
burden of travel outside the state, where he earned speaking fees
and begged for donations. The laity warmed to him all the more
for this distasteful (to him) effort: not only did this bishop survive
on a merely token cathedraticum, he even produced an income for
The factor that created a demand for Leo Haid as a speaker
throughout the country was the gradual creation, promulgation,
and acceptance of a felicitous and eloquent public image. 15 This
was designed and promoted by Dom Felix Hintemeyer, O.S.B.
(1862-1924), Haid's devoted lieutenant and disciple. Bavarian
born, Hintemeyer emigrated to America as a candidate for the
Benedictines in Pennsylvania. Because of the circumstances of his
birth, he could not be accepted for orders in his homeland. Excep-
A Conflict of Mitres I 81
tionally timid as a young man, the journey was a difficult and
stressful undertaking. But he found in the Pennsylvania monas-
tery the ordered life of religion that nurtured his gifts and lent
satisfaction to his spirit. Hintemeyer possessed a powerful intel-
lect, a factor that cast him — despite his timidity — as a prime
acquisition for North Carolina. Haid delayed the young monk's
departure from Pennsylvania, allowing time for advanced studies
that would serve in the lecture halls of Belmont's seminary and
college. Once he finally reached Carolina, Dom Felix found he was
expected to expand on his gifts and apply himself to the full,
rough, vigorous life of the young monastery.
Hintemeyer idolized the bishop, and generously applied him-
self to Haid's service. The abbot-bishop rewarded Dom Felix's
loyalty and potential by appointing the Bavarian to be prior of the
monastery and vicar general of the diocese, making him the
second-in-command in both jurisdictions. This was a surprise to
the monks, due to both the man's relative youth and his gentle
ways; nonetheless, the choice proved happy and providential.
Hintemeyer no longer possessed opportunities for indulging his
The public image promulgated by Felix Hintemeyer empha-
sized the uniqueness of the abbot-bishop, stressing Haid's sacri-
fice as a monk over his dignity as a bishop. The press warmly
embraced this depiction. The newspapers sympathized with the
new prelate as he ventured from the warmth of his cloister,
entering the threatening and inhospitable climate of his apostolic
commission. Journals even devoted space to Abbot Leo's appear-
ance, finding him a romantic figure, ascetical and medieval,
ornamented with a long white beard, attired in monastic habit,
but with the burden of a pectoral cross and episcopal zuchetto. 16
An amazing amount of attention was shown by the Catholic
press; this served the abbot-bishop well. The distinction that
Hintemeyer stressed and the press embraced won for Carolina
and her bishop more than attention— it earned a response.
Vocations and donors, for the first time, addressed the Catholic
paucity in the North State.
Dissension in Carolina
While the divided jurisdiction was serving a valuable role out-
82 I Word & Spirit
side Carolina, within the state the effect was less auspicious. The
North Carolina clergy were not as charmed as the laity by the
ordinary's divided labors. The priests noticed Haid's preference
for staying at the abbey. Haid thoughtlessly aggravated the
displeasure of the missionaries through the distinctions that
followed on his rather exclusively monastic perspective: The
Benedictine virtues of gentleness and paternity, for example,
qualities that are highly prized when found in abbots, seemed like
weakness in a bishop; 17 Haid thought secular clergy had a far
easier lot than did regulars 18 — an appraisal to which the vicariate
clergy took exception, it seems. And since monks expected 19 to
live in community while missionary seculars did not, the bishop
decided he should transfer the larger Carolina parishes— the ones
that needed more than one priest — to the Benedictines. That
caused particular umbrage since these parishes also tended to be
the most secure and solvent in the territory. Not without reason,
the vicariate's priests began to hold their ordinary's attitudes in
disfavor and suspicion.
Although the bishop noted the development of this resent-
ment, he misjudged its character and ferocity, then responded
unwisely. Haid decided that he could best deal with the displea-
sure of the seculars by restricting the Benedictines to a territory
that would be theirs exclusively. This would remove any appear-
ance of competition, he reasoned. 20 He also concluded that the
seculars would be pleased to see the Benedictines tied to a pas-
toral commitment that was both lasting in time and stable in
territory — the monks would not be able to expand or abbreviate
their interests without an appeal to the Holy See. The Benedic-
tines too, the bishop thought, would take pleasure in a personal
territory of this sort, since it created an enduring responsibility, a
permanent apostolate. Yet that was not to be. Instead, when the
Holy See gave the abbey exclusive charge in 1891 of nine counties
in the vicariate, 21 the seculars feared that the Order of St. Benedict
was grasping for power, trying to seize control of the priests'
domain. To the monks, who were equally displeased, it seemed
that Abbot Leo was compromising his emphasis on and prefer-
ence for the monastic ethos over the missionary summons. The
issue was complicated further by the Holy See's decision, upon
recommendation of James Cardinal Gibbons, Metropolitan of Bal-
A Conflict of Mitres I 83
timore, to limit Belmont's territorial grant to only fifty years. That
meant that the Benedictines were to cultivate the field, then
return it to the diocese. Thus Carolina was not awarded the
stability Haid sought.
In succeeding years, financial matters opened an additional
field of distrust and contention in the vicariate. Donors, for exam-
ple, seldom distinguished whether a gift should benefit one of
Haid's jurisdictions rather than another, or both. That resulted in
conflicts regarding whether the monastery, college, or diocese
had claim to the largess. The settlement of various estates, 22 the
purchase of land, and other financial matters were seen by the
monks and by the clergy as favoring the other party.
This situation followed on the bishop's casual approach toward
financial matters. He was well aware that, when creating the
double mitre, Gibbons and the Holy See had intended that
monastery/vicariate finances would be blurred, allowing the
resources of each polity to redound to the benefit of both. In
raising funds, the bishop did not distinguish between the vicar-
iate and the monastery. Thus neither did donors make a distinc-
tion. Haid's practice was to use whatever monies appeared to pay
whatever bills appeared. Slowly, this policy facilitated the ascent
of Haid's dependencies from their debts. The buildings at Bel-
mont grew stately and impressive. 23 As many as four churches
per year were arising in North Carolina. Vocations were appear-
ing. Both statistically and visibly, uniting the jurisdictions had
finally lent to poor North Carolina — eventually the only vicariate
remaining east of the Mississippi — the distinction, character, and
appeal that won for the Church its institutional foothold there.
But dissatisfaction and annoyance in the ranks of the clergy were
not to lie dormant.
A Third Mitre
The dissolution of even the appearances of cordiality between
the Benedictines and the secular clergy was inevitable. The peace
was shattered in 1910.
The 1891 counties, as only a temporary grant, disfigured Haid's
ideal of the separation of his seculars and regulars. So the bishop
approached the uneasy union of his jurisdictions from a different
perspective: He embarked on a flurry of activity that sought to
84 I Word & Spirit
release his diocese, monastery, and college from the debts that
not only held them down, but bound their plights together. In
May of 1900, the abbot-bishop came out of his cloister. Suddenly,
he seemed to be everywhere, touring his own territory, then
begging throughout the North. He built churches, retired debts,
won vocations, and gave himself with the generosity that had
always been asked of him, but which his conflicting vocations —
owed to the cloister, ordained to the missions — always left in
abeyance. For ten years, until the summer of 1910, the abbot-
bishop displayed the vigorous apostolic commitment his public
image already proposed. His monks were dazed by the change.
His priests were inspirited by the vigorous growth and episcopal
energy that poor North Carolina had so long awaited.
That new apostolic activity, however, tied the monks more
solidly than ever to the vicariate. Improved finances did not
release the monks; instead, it drew them into the diocese in
greater numbers and with more intimacy of involvement. Haid
and Hintemeyer recognized that the Benedictine charism might
be permanently obscured in North Carolina if integrity were not
radically reinvested in the monastic life there.
To answer the situation, Haid sought a third mitre for his
collection. He determined to create it by acquiring a perpetually
and definitively separate Benedictine territory: in effect, a small
monastic diocese where the monks would be removed from vicar-
iate affairs and relieved from any intervention by later (presuma-
bly non- Benedictine) ordinaries. The opportunity for this territory
arose in 1910, when the abbey and abbot were celebrating their
twenty-fifth jubilees. 24 Haid and Hintemeyer believed some dis-
tinction might be bestowed by Rome to honor the progress of
their monastery. So the monks requested and were granted the
erection of Belmont as this country's first — and only 25 — abbatia
nullius diocesis (an abbey of no [or outside any] diocese). 26 This
status, commonly called a "cathedral abbey," was a distinctly
European, medieval jurisdiction. It entrusted the abbot and his
successors with the privileges and authority of a diocesan ordi-
nary, allowing them to rule their monastery plus whatever terri-
tory the nullius was granted as its "diocese." Haid requested a
small territory, consisting only of the counties that surrounded
the monastery. Cardinal Gibbons, however, seeking to tie the
A Conflict of Mitres I 85
>•' ■, '
Benedictines to an extensive parochial obligation that would
alleviate much of the clergy shortage in the state, recommended 27
that eight counties be assigned to Belmont as a perpetual, dioce-
san territory. The Metropolitan's arguments were accepted over
the Benedictines', and on 8 June 1910 the abbatial diocese of
Belmont Abbey was created, being an eight county domain in
western North Carolina where the successive abbots would hold
full, ordinary jurisdiction in perpetuity. 28
Leo Haid innocently — almost remarkably — thought the secu-
lar clergy would rejoice at the removal of Belmont Abbey from the
Vicariate Apostolic of North Carolina. The monks would hence-
forth concentrate their efforts on an area completely apart from
the seculars' work; all taint of competition should finally be
removed. That pleasure was never exhibited, however. Two pro-
visions of the Bulla Erectionis for the nullius proved far too odious,
and mitigated such a response.
The first of these permitted Bishop Haid to live outside the
vicariate, in the now-separated territory of the abbey nullius.
Once again, the vicariate had a non-resident ordinary. 29 This
arrangement also served to emphasize Haid's non-parochial
The second provision in the Bulla, one that the vicariated clergy
labeled the "joker clause," 30 was of even greater moment. So
striking was this provision — even the Benedictines were sur-
prised to find it in the document — that it was first thought to be a
syntactical error. It invested the monastic Chapter at Belmont
with the right to elect all future vicars apostolic of North
Carolina. 31 That meant that the vicars apostolic of the state would
always be Benedictine, would always have divided responsibili-
ties and interests, and would always live outside the vicariate.
Each successive abbot of Belmont would maintain jurisdiction
over the whole North State as a right of office. The secular clergy
would always be subject to the abbot at Belmont. The Benedictine
rule in the state, according to the Bulla, would not end until the
vicariate was replaced by a diocese. The displeasure of the North
Carolina clergy was strong, immediate, and expressed with zeal.
The Clergy Uprising
The leader of the clergy's opposition was the senior priest of the
86 I Word & Spirit
diocese; he was also the first North Carolinian to receive Holy
Orders, and the only cleric of the vicariate whose service pre-
dated the bishop's. His leadership seemed to embody Carolina,
casting the Benedictines as interlopers. He was Thomas Frederick
Price (1860-1919), who soon afterwards would earn fame as the
co-founder of Mary knoll. Price's ire over the abbey's new prerog-
atives was fueled by Gibbons, who was so assaulted by the
animosity aroused by the nullius that at one point he even
claimed to know nothing of the petition for its erection 32 — despite
his endorsement of the document and authorship of the territory.
Gibbons' less than candid remarks created — or added to — an
impression that the Benedictines were furtively grasping for
power and territory. That charge was far more serious this time
than it had been in 1891: for while the first grant, with its nine
counties, had been for only a limited time, the privileges of 1910,
with eight counties — and, in a sense, the entire state—was per-
manent. The Benedictines had acquired an extraordinary, seem-
ingly private 'diocese' carved out of North Carolina's territory,
before the secular clergy had succeeded in earning even a con-
ventional jurisdiction, a regular diocese for their state.
Over the signature of every secular priest in the vicariate, Price
petitioned Gibbons for the immediate erection of a diocese to
replace North Carolina's vicariate. 33 The creation of that diocese
would forestall the abbey's right to the throne of North Carolina,
a right that only bestowed the vicariate, not any successive juris-
dictions. Price wanted the diocese erected without delay, before
Carolina would be definitively "crippled by the continuous
absorption of its resources and monies into [a back-woods] mon-
astery." The Benedictines, the priest told Gibbons, were "sucking
[the vicariate's] life-blood like a vampire." 34 Gibbons marked the
petition "unofficially received," 35 but convoked the bishops of
the Province of Baltimore, recommended the immediate erection
of a North Carolina diocese, 36 and forwarded that recommenda-
tion to Rome. 37 The Apostolic See denied the request, however —
apparently, to the surprise of all the parties involved in the
petition— judging it to be premature. 38
A House Divided
That was the situation in which Leo Haid was left to complete
A Conflict of Mitres I 87
his reign. He was the mitred abbot of a monastery, and the mitred
ordinary of two diocesan jurisdictions (the Vicariate Apostolic of
North Carolina and the Cathedral Abbey of Belmont). How could
the demands of these three entities, their personnel, objectives,
and distinct charisms be balanced by one person?
The irony of the abbot-bishop's situation was curious, as
throughout the remaining fourteen years of his administration,
Leo Haid was assaulted with the unceasing belligerence of foes.
His unique, divided jurisdiction won for North Carolina the
external support, vocations, interest and impetus for growth that
was otherwise nonexistent; it helped secure the institutional
existence of the Catholic Church in the North State; nevertheless,
that same divided jurisdiction proved an insuperable obstacle
domestically to priestly zeal, spirit, peace, and harmony. The dual
jurisdiction won him both the means for success, and the enmity
that threatened its dissolution. Even though it did not change
Haid's responsibilities 39 — he had charge of the whole state before
the nullius was created, and maintained charge of the whole state
afterwards — the separated territory of the Cathedral Abbey en-
flamed embers of hostility that burned all across North Carolina.
The ingratitude, as the bishop saw it, of his secular clergy, and
the duplicity that seemed to mark the actions of men like
Gibbons, shattered Haid. He retreated into his monastery, con-
centrated on his abbacy, teaching, and farming. The enthusiasm
that marked his diocesan work of the past ten years evaporated.
Haid never understood the discord aroused by the nullius, nor did
he confront it. The cornerstone of his legacy, the patrimony pre-
pared for his monks and the provisions for his vicariate had
suddenly become the forces that threatened to discredit-
perhaps to destroy — his reign.
Even his monks seemed to misunderstand the nullius. In these
years after 1910, new vocations in the monastery shifted from
German-American dominance to Irish. The latter brought a more
active, priestly-oriented vision of Benedictine life. They were
anxious for the work of the parishes and the pastoral opportuni-
ties the nullius provided. They never accepted the abbot-bishop's
understanding of the nullius as an escape from expansive paroch-
ial obligations. So in his senior years, Leo Haid found his ideas
/ Word & Spirit
As Haid's spirit was disenfranchised in the separated territory,
the Abbatial Diocese lost sight of the purpose for which it was
created. The nullius proved an extraordinary miscalculation on
Haid's part. Neither constituency, not the monks or the priests,
ever understood the concept he and Hintemeyer sought to
embody in the separated territory. Who could comprehend a
diocese that was not essentially for the cura animarurn? Haid
envisioned a peaceful separation in North Carolina that would
leave the seculars unthreatened and the monks undisturbed.
Instead, the separated territory inspired a remarkable enmity that
survived the abbot-bishop, and attended the nullius unabated
unto its suppression.
When Haid died in 1924, the vicariate was immediately sup-
pressed, with a new diocese of Raleigh erected in its stead. This
effort had been carefully planned more than two years before the
bishop accommodated his enemies by dying. With the vicariate
gone, Belmont no longer had a claim on the throne of Carolina. So
the second abbot, Vincent Taylor, was not ordained a bishop. He
merely ruled the eight counties of the abbatial diocese. It would
seem that this should have achieved the peace and separation
Haid wanted, but results were otherwise.
The Diocese of Raleigh was peculiarly distracted by the few
Carolina counties that lay outside its borders. There resulted a
continual absorption of the abbey's jurisdiction. The 1891 coun-
ties were restored to the seculars in 1941, in a transaction carefully
orchestrated by the second ordinary of Raleigh, Eugene McGuin-
ness. 40 In response to McGuinness' intercession once again, 41 the
Holy See partitioned the territory of the Cathedral Abbey in 1944,
leaving Belmont only one county. In 1960, as the Benedictine
diocese celebrated its Golden Jubilee, a second partition reduced
the nullius to the acreage of the abbey itself. That eliminated all
pastoral territory from the abbot's control, rendering the jurisdic-
tion impotent. Nevertheless, the enmity survived.
Finally, on 1 January 1977, as the monastery's celebration of the
centenary of its foundation was concluded, the diocese was sup-
pressed. This time the initiative came not from Raleigh, but from
the Committee on Diocesan Boundaries of the National Confer-
ence of Catholic Bishops. 42 The value of the nullius in securing
A Conflict of Mitres J 89
independence from diocesan interference was no longer an issue.
Dioceses were created and existed for the cura animarum, not for
promoting monastic prerogatives. Accordingly, this central com-
ponent in Leo Haid's patrimony served no longer; the original
intentions could not justify the territory's continued existence.
An Unwanted Jurisdiction
The Benedictine rule in North Carolina achieved its unhappy
conclusion largely because Leo Haid never realized that the state
did not need, nor the clergy want, a more uncompromising sepa-
ration. The third mitre crippled, rather than saved, his adminis-
tration. Both the monastery and the vicariate needed a full-time,
fully present prelate at the helm. The definitive, permanent
division of the ordinary's vision nobbled him.
The nullius also aroused a negative response by seeming to
reflect unfavorably on the vicariate. A nullius is permanent, as
permanent as a diocese. The erection of the American nullius was
thus interpreted as an insult to North Carolina's clergy who had
no diocese yet, only a vicariate. Moreover, being created from the
vicariate's territory, even as the vicariate was being denied its
own petition for diocesan status, the nullius appeared as a discour-
aging and derisive gesture toward the secular clergy and their
labors. Their forty-two year old vicariate, it seemed, was not as
advanced, developed, stable, or secure as the twenty-five year old
Seeing one jurisdiction exalted over the other, and knowing the
Abbot-Bishop's well-publicized preference for the one over the
other, the priests quickly identified the seeming source of their
problems. Would matters have been different had Leo Haid fol-
lowed the example of every other American abbot who was
ordained to the episcopacy? Every other abbot, as his Carolina
priests noted, had eventually resigned his abbacy in order to rule
his diocese without distraction. 43 Leo Haid had not, and in his
jurisdiction, perhaps as a result, the monastery reached stability
more expeditiously than the diocese. Was the ordinary at fault?
Here, on the question of Haid's purported disservice to North
Carolina, a final irony is erected. The clergy's documents of pro-
test weave a strange, reluctant argument against their ordinary.
90 I Word & Spirit
"This service [by the Abbot-Bishop] of two masters/' wrote a
spokesman for the clergy of the vicariate, "has been the root of all
our difficulties." Nevertheless, that priest emphasized, a reserva-
tion has to be imposed on the complaint. And this is where the
final complication is injected: The priests— dissatisfied as they
were— were singularly reluctant to risk losing Haid. They wanted
him to leave his monastery, not the vicariate. He may not have
been a good bishop; nonetheless, through his goodness, he had
won their affection. "We love and admire him," that document
continued, "even while we say and feel this and would wish for
closer union. But it seems impossible." 44
Sentiments like these, repeatedly presented in the diatribes
against Bishop Haid, are not the ordinary substance of petitions
against superiors. But they are a regular feature in the documents
issued in opposition to the reign of the abbot-bishop of North
Carolina. For while the administration of Leo Haid was despised
and subjected to unceasing opprobrium, the man himself was the
focus of an extraordinary and pervasive affection. Indeed, in
every request for Haid's removal, the North Carolina clergy ask
not that the bishop abdicate the vicariate's throne, but that he
leave his monastery and live among his secular clergy.
The tenderness of these statements often possesses a touching
beauty and even reverence. The last of the secular clergy's peti-
tions against the bishop, a 1922 document, is a good example of
this bifurcation. It accuses the ordinary of being weak and irre-
sponsible, of lacking zeal in his diocese; he is said to be selfish and
fiscally corrupt in balancing his mitres. Unanimously, however,
the signers — every secular priest of the vicariate — swear that
these charges must not "be construed as a criticism of Bishop
Haid or reflecting on him. No Bishop could be kinder to his priests
than Bishop Haid." 45 They begged that Haid remain with the
diocese rather than the abbey. 46 Yet, they lamented privately, "I
do not think it likely that Bishop Haid will come out [of his
This strange and persistent factor makes an evaluation of the
Haid administration particularly difficult, especially since both
assessments of the bishop proceed from the same parties. 48 It
seems one must conclude that he was, as his priests charged,
"undoubtedly a grand man, but he is a monk first and a bishop
A Conflict of Mitres I 91
next." 49 Both the ordinary and the clergy accepted that as an
accurate evaluation of the conditions in North Carolina during
the thirty-six year episcopal reign of Leo Haid. The complication
was that Bishop Haid took it as a compliment, while his priests
intended it as a criticism.
A similar conflict arises in appraising the nullius. It was con-
ceived by Bishop Haid as a monastic territory, a separated place
for the Benedictines. Yet dioceses are not properly erected for
such service; they are created for the cura animarum. With conflict
at the core of the nullius, it is not surprising that animosity toward
the territory did not die with the first bishop. Rather, the surprise
is that the Holy See eventually seemed to endorse Haid's vision:
Both of the documents of partition (1944, 1960) noted the monks'
lack of pastoral success; 50 yet Rome urged the Benedictines to
strengthen their monastery and schools more than their parishes.
The priorities of the founding abbot were endorsed—contrary to
conventional ecclesiological standards.
So the nullius in its final years survived — seemingly with offi-
cial approbation — as an honor, a distinction, rather than as a
pastoral jurisdiction. Only the suppression (1976-1977), when it
came, imposed reality: dioceses are not intended as honorifics.
When the separated territory was suppressed, Rome observed
that the time for the Belmont diocese had simply passed. 51 As it
had in 1944 and 1960, the Holy See urged the monks to forsake
their parishes for the cloister and schools. As intriguing as the
monastic diocese was, it proved the wrong means for the patri-
mony Leo Haid intended to leave his abbey. In 1977, his descen-
dents were left to reposition themselves in order to preserve their
patrimony without the institutional casement in which it was
first provided. The abbots of Belmont no longer wore the second
mitre of a diocesan ordinary.
When Abbot-Bishop Leo Haid died in 1924, he was interred in
the Abbey Cemetery, in the North Yard at Belmont. In a fitting
and eloquent final testimony, his tomb was designed with a relief
on the vault that shows two crosiers at odds with one another.
92 I Word & Spirit
AAB Archives of the Archdiocese of Baltimore (Maryland)
AAM Archives of Belmont Abbey, Belmont Abbey Nullius and
Belmont Abbey College
CFMSA Archives of the Catholic Foreign Mission Society of
America (New York)
D.RAHA. Archives of the Diocese of Raleigh (North Carolina)
SAA Archives of the Abbey of Sant' Anselmo (Rome)
SCSA Archives of St. Charles Seminary (Maryland)
SJA Archives of St. John Abbey (Minnesota)
SPOA Archives of the Abbey of St. Paul Outside the Walls
SVA Archives of the Archabbey of St. Vincent (Pennsylvania)
'Parts of this essay are derived from a paper delivered before a meeting
of the American Catholic Historical Association in 1986. The subject is
addressed in greater detail in: Paschal Baumstein, My Lord of Belmont: A
Biography of Leo Haid (Kings Mountain: Herald House, 1985).
2 James Gibbons was appointed vicar apostolic in 1868; in 1872 he was
elevated to the see of Richmond. He resided there, ruling both jurisdic-
tions simultaneously. John Keane, appointed in 1878, ruled those sees
together from the beginning of his episcopacy. Mark Gross was
appointed vicar apostolic in 1879. He accepted the appointment; recon-
sidered it, then renounced the office before assuming it. Henry Northrop
was named vicar apostolic of North Carolina in 1882. One year later he
added the see of Charleston to his duties; he maintained his residence in
the South Carolina city. In 1887, Leo Haid was announced as the fourth
vicar in the territory's first two decades. He remained in the state
throughout his tenure, but the erection of the Cathedral Abbey at Bel-
mont in 1910, removed the bishop's residence outside the borders of the
vicariate. Thus, technically at least, he too — the last vicar apostolic — by
the close of his reign, resided outside the Vicariate Apostolic of North
3 Catholic Directory figures for the North State were updated only
irregularly. Thus the count of priests and of the faithful should be con-
sidered estimates, not exact totals.
*Maryhelp Abbey is the monastery's official name, but since about 1910,
it has been known popularly as "Belmont Abbey."
5 The college was called "St. Mary's" at that time. In 1913 the name was
changed to "Belmont Abbey College."
b He was elected abbot on 14 July 1885.
7 AAB has retained several of Mark Gross' letters dealing with Haid's
initial impact in Carolina.
8 SVA has an extensive collection in this regard. Despite appearances,
! ,< A Conflict of Mitres I 93
•,/.-:.:.. I .' : ..i,. vv::.:
administrative duties were a source of great misery to the abbot. His
melancholy correspondence and pleas for assistance, which he addressed
to the archabbot of St. Vincent, made his monastery a focus of murmur-
ing and derogation among American monks.
9 Cf. for example: SCSA: Letter from Leo Haid to James Zilliox, 25
December 1886. And SVA: Letter from Leo Haid to Boniface Wimmer, 3
February 1887. And SJA: Letter from Leo Haid to Alexius Edelbrock, 20
May 1887. Haid had also been mentioned as a candidate for Savannah.
10 Leo Haid, text of address, published in Raleigh News and Observer, 7
U SJA: Letter from Leo Haid to Alexius Edelbrock, 22 August 1888.
12 Haid had never even appointed a prior, novice master, or cleric
master before his episcopal consecration. When he did appoint subordi-
nates, it was a move he thought was imposed on him by episcopal duties
rather than monastic circumstances. Cf. comments in SVA: Letter from
Leo Haid to Andrew Hintenach, 2 December 1889.
13 AAM: Catalogues of St. Mary's College, 1887-1888, 1888-1889.
14 Haid expresses his surprise in, for example, SJA: Letters from Leo
Haid to Alexius Edelbrock, 22 August 1888 and 10 December 1888.
15 I have discussed this in greater detail in Belmont (cf. no. 1, supra),
106-126, 181-183, etal.
16 For some examples of how Haid was treated in print, cf. "A Southern
Benedictine Abbey," New York Sun, 7 March 1886. And J.S. Bassett, "A
North Carolina Monastery," The Magazine of American History (February,
17 Cf. for example, appraisals in CFMSA: Letter from George Woods to
James Anthony Walsh, 18 August 1921. And Robert Sheridan, editor, Very
Reverend Thomas Frederick Price, M.M., Co-Founder of Mary knoll: A Symposium
(Privately published at Maryknoll, NY, 1956) [in particular note the
testimony of Michael Irwin].
1B Cf. for example, comments in SVA: Letter from Leo Haid to Andrew
Hintenach, 3 August 1888. And SAA: Letter from Leo Haid to the Abbot
Primate of the Order of St. Benedict, 1894 [page one of this letter, presum-
ably bearing the full date, is missing].
19 Cf. SJA: Letter from Leo Haid to Peter Engel, 6 April 1909.
20 Cf. SPOA: Letter from Leo Haid to Bernard Smith, 6 June 1891.
21 D.RAH.A: Decree of De Propaganda Fide, 4 December 1891.
22 As recently as 1982, the present author sat through an account (by a
seminarian of the Raleigh diocese) of Haid's supposed offenses concern-
ing the estate of Denis O'Donoghue. That estate had been settled more
than three-quarters of a century earlier. As recently as 1985, a monk was
heard expressing his concern over the handling of the Lawrence Brown
estate, which was settled in the same generation as O'Donoghue's. The
enduring interest in these matters illustrates how powerful this concern
became in the state. If the author's analysis of the documents is correct,
when the Haid papers are opened to research in 1999, these tales should
finally be put to rest.
94 I Word & Spirit
23 For example, see the rather grandiloquent, and lamentably un-
labeled, text of a Charlotte newspaper's description, reprinted in Souvenir
of the Alumni Reunion (Belmont: Abbey Press, 27 November 1913).
24 Although the monastery was founded in 1876, Haid calculated jubi-
lee dates from his election as the first abbot in 1885. Thus the silver
jubilees of the abbey and abbot were commemorated in 1910, thirty-four
years after the monastery was established, and twenty-six years after it
became an abbey.
25 Belmont was the only abbatia nullius diocesis ever erected in this
country. Given Paul VI's decree that no further abbeys nullius be created,
Belmont's status should remain unique. Cf. Paul VI, Apostolic Letter, 23
October 1976, concerning abbeys nullius. An abbey nullius was created in
Canada in 1921.
2b A succinct but thorough description of the juridical aspects of abbeys
nullius may be found in: Matthew Benko, The Abbot 'Nullius', The Catholic
University of America Canon Law Studies, No. 173 [Published doctoral
dissertation] (Washington, D.C.: The Catholic University of America
27 AAB: Letter from James Gibbons to Cajetan De Lai, 25 January 1910.
2B The Bulla Erectionis for the Abbatia Nullius Diocesis of Belmont is dated 8
June 1910. It was later published: The American Ecclesiastical Review
(December, 1910), 690-695.
30 Cf. AAM: Letter from Christopher Dennen to Felix Hintemeyer, 26
October 1910. Dennen became the first Vicar General of the Diocese of
Raleigh; Hintemeyer was the first Vicar General of the nullius and was at
this time also the Vicar General of the Vicariate Apostolic of North
^Bulla Erectionis, 8 June 1910.
32 Cf. AAB: Letter from Thomas Frederick Price to James Gibbons, 31
33 AAB: Petition from the secular priests of the Vicariate Apostolic of
North Carolina to James Cardinal Gibbons, Metropolitan of the Province
of Baltimore, November 1910.
^AAB: Letter from Thomas Frederick Price to James Gibbons, 27
35 AAB: Petition, November 1910.
3o Cf. AAM: Letter from James Gibbons to Leo Haid, 23 January 1911.
37 AAB: Petition from Gibbons as Metropolitan to Pius X, 31 May 1911.
3o The Apostolic Delegate communicated the decision in identical let-
ters to Gibbons (preserved in AAB) and Haid (preserved in AAM), dated
1 September 1911.
3y It did not change his responsibilities in practice, even though it did de
40 D.RAHA.: Letter from McGuinness to Amleto Cicognani, 3 April
1940, 8 April 1941.
A Conflict of Mitres I 95
41 D.RAH.A.: Letter from McGuinness to Amleto Cicognani, 9 October
42 AAM: Letter from Jean Jadot to Jude Cleary, 26 August 1975.
43 For example, this question is raised in: AAM: Letter from Christopher
Dennen to Felix Hintemeyer, 30 October 1910. Vincent de Paul Wehrle, in
North Dakota, also tried to reign over both a monastery and diocese. He
was elected abbot of St. Mary's (now Assumption Abbey) in Richardton,
North Dakota in 1903. When appointed bishop of Bismarck in 1910, he
did not resign his abbacy, retaining it until 1915 when he left the monas-
tery to devote himself to his bishopric full-time.
44 AAB: Letter from Michael Irwin to James Gibbons, 3 November 1910.
45 AAB: Letter/petition from Christopher Dennen and the secular
clergy of the Vicariate Apostolic of North Carolina to the Apostolic
Delegate, 30 May 1922.
46 See for example: AAB: Letter from Thomas Frederick Price to James
Gibbons, 27 October 1910. And AAM: Letter from William F. O'Brien to
Leo Haid, 31 March 1911. And AAB: Petition from Gibbons to Pius X, 31
47 AAB: Letter from Michael Irwin to James Gibbons, 3 November 1910.
48 A rather remarkable example of this is Christopher Dennen, a priest
of the vicariate, and a virulent and occasionally subversive adversary of
the bishop, who at his own request is buried in the Abbey Cemetery at
Belmont, a few yards from the abbot-bishop's feet.
4y AAB: Letter from Michael Irwin to James Gibbons, 3 November 1910.
50 AAM: Letter from Amleto Cicognani to Vincent Taylor, 23 October
1943; and Decree of the Sacred Consistorial Congregation, 26 March 1960.
51 AAM: Letter of the Sacred Congregation for Bishops to Jude Cleary,
31 January 1976.
Ben. BX 4705 .H3 B19x 1992
A conflict of mitres
Ben. BX 4705 .H3 B19x 1992
A conflict of mitres